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The Rupp Report: At The End Of The Day, It's The People

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

In the last two decades or so, China has become the powerhouse of the world, definitely for all kinds of textile products. In the West, people believe that the current young generation of Chinese is just like the country's gross domestic product: rising, hard-working, full of commitment, market-oriented, and so on. However, frequent travelers to China are not too astonished when they face an attitude -- mostly by young people -- that is in a strong contrast to the attitude perceived in the West.

For Chinese Only
On a recent two-week tour through some beautiful parts of China, the author encountered some -- let's say -- modern attitudes of these young Chinese. They don't speak any foreign languages, they don't understand any word of a foreign language, they have no sense of business and service, and they don't give the impression that they are very much interested in anything themselves -- at least, not in the things you want.

How come? On this long trip with a group of people, there were opportunities to speak to local tour guides, who are very well educated in the long history of China, but also in the speaking of foreign languages. Frequent hotel changes give the opportunity to study the attitudes of personnel and staff in hotels, taxis, reception areas, and other locations. The group stayed at truly international hotels, and it was amazing to realize that almost 100 percent of the -- mostly young -- people at the reception desks speak no word of a foreign language. Amazing! How do they survive? How do they do their jobs? There were international hotels serving a lot of foreign guests, not only this very small group of people. Any request by a guest was answered by a shrug of their shoulders. And the most astonishing thing was to see the reaction on some fruitless requests -- no reaction at all.

A One-child Policy ...
These quite ignorant and sometimes even arrogant behaviors provoked a lot of discussions with one very open-minded tour guide. How is this possible? The explanation was quite interesting: For more than 50 years, China has had the one-child policy. And most Chinese still agree to that, saying that feeding 1.4 billion people is not an easy task. However, with this policy, China is facing more and more problems: A big share of the Chinese population -- just like in any Western country -- is becoming older and older, causing a lot of social problems, and the big question is: who's paying the bill -- in other words, their pensions?

... Raises Spoiled Children
But the one-child policy has another, even bigger problem, the guide said, and he gave a very interesting explanation: Due to the financial situation of most of the Chinese parents, they are both obliged to work. So the baby stays most of the time with grandparents. And everybody knows about grandparents; they are pampering the babies 24 hours a day. And maybe the parents have some bad feelings and feel guilty leaving their kid alone. And the result is the only kid gets whatever he cries for.

Apart from some fortunate babies who were born into rich families, the young generation is very poorly educated, and they have no will to learn themselves. Without having any preparation for real life, they are not able to survive on their own. And these spoiled kids don't take any responsibility for their behavior. How should they, if every problem is taken away by the parents or grandma? Every one of them wants to be a king or a Chinese emperor; and they are immediately offended by any criticism. And, as the guide asked in the final summary in his long speech, these guys should lead the country into the future? And, to ask another question, what does it mean for the global textile industry? Probably a lot.

No Service Mentality
As everybody in the textile industry knows, success is mainly dependent on top quality, flexibility and services provided by people -- and, of course, the price. Even more so today, social aspects like sustainability, traceability and working environment are important. Providing services is the key element to successful work. Why has every European textile machinery producer started its own branch and production in China? Because they all want to be close to the market, and provide the best service in the local language. Local language? This is the quadrature of the circle: How do you establish a powerful team if the people are not able to accept any advice or speak a foreign language? How do they react to complaints from the customers or their boss? Will they do a good job or just shrug their shoulders? Many Western textile companies have started to back out of China for this reason: These employees have no sense of responsibility regarding quality, delivery times and services. Some even have said that quality costs are soaring up to 30 percent. This might be the chance for other neighboring countries with a strong sense of service to take away some business from the big dragon.

Have Your Say
Even with the best and most competitive product, at the end of the day, it is only people that matter. Every successful sales job is a personal relationship. If you are not able to provide the best individual service, you will not win the race, no matter where you are. However, dear reader, if you have production facilities, a service station or warehoused stock in China, how do you handle these kinds of problems? Or do you have no problems at all? Please have your say and report your experience of working in China. The Rupp Report will be glad to share your thoughts. Write to jrupp@textileworld.com.

May 21, 2013